We had a lovely time at Pagan Pride in London yesterday.
The London Pagan Pride Parade is the oldest existing one in the world, and for many years it ran in May in conjunction with a Pagan festival called The Beltane Bash which was held at Conway Hall in Holborn. They were really big parades, lots of people, lots of drumming and noise, giant deity manikins being carried, walking through the central London streets to a spiral dance in Russell Square Gardens, then back round the British Museum to Conway Hall for the festival (which lasted two days). It was liberating and great fun.
The Beltane Bash came to an end a little while ago, but for the last few years the Pagan Pride Parade has been organized by The Atlantis Bookshop. This year it coincided with Summer Solstice (give or take a day), which is a quite different feel to the early Summer Beltanes of yesteryear, but we really liked it.
The weather was really beautiful, the feel of the march assembling was informal and friendly, we had three or four banners, the “giants” were smaller but lovely in their creativity; a “Green Lady”, a Herne (who looked splendidly devilish), and a green dragon. I think we probably had about 60 people (I thought it felt like more!), but the point was people came, we really wanted to be there, and we were indeed Proud and happy to be Pagan on the street (and it was a walk along pavements). When we got to Russell Square we had our customary dance in the fountain.
Compared to what we used to do, it was tiny, but it is regrowing steadily and with genuine spirit, and that made it fantastic. Everyone was making a difference being there, and was there because they cared about it.
On our way to get our transport home, I really thought about it being midsummer, and dancing in the fountain, and the general, green hued, popular Pagan themes you saw on the march. Some see midsummer as a turning point with a significant nod towards the darker half of the year, but that’s not really how I see it. Midsummer is a time for being care free, for the height of Summer is ahead, a time for drinking in the light and warmth and the high blue skies, getting lost in those blue skies, and the shimmer of the Sun on the sea. Take some of this into you and forget the past, and any future other than the one you would dream. Live more.
And that reminded me of something I heard someone say about 35 years ago when she was asked what she “was” religiously. She said “I worship Life, I am a Pagan”. I don’t know if she actually was Pagan, or if it was just a poetic expression for her, but she hit on something which does hold for neopaganism. Life, and the living moment, are important in it. And part of the lowest common denominator mystery of modern Paganism is what and how the life force is. It’s not just fertility, because it is what gives reproduction itself its life. It’s not just Nature, because though you can indeed extend Nature to include everything, that doesn’t really say enough of any definiteness. It includes things that we consider paranormal, and many of us feel sure that it extends into areas commonly considered non-living and non-physical (indeed non-temporal also). In the natural world it comes in tides, and that’s part of what we feel at midsummer and other times of year.
But what do we do with it, and what does it do to us? I’m sure I’m not the first person to see people drunk with energy, or to see people go a bit doolally, individually or collectively, thanks to the effects of the energy running through a situation. Some energy can be grounded (in the ways directed by a hundred beginners books on Witchcraft), and some just can’t be, apart from by putting it to use.
Well, an amount of bringing natural energy into our lives is beneficial to us as a community and as individuals. It’s just a healthy thing to do an amount of. But there’s still the amount we can do something with.
For me, getting an influx of life force at midsummer is good for affirming a good life, and being more care free, letting go of stuff, feeling gratitude, flushing out some blocks, and being a somewhat kinder and more forgiving person. Not to the point of losing all common sense and everything that I have learned about boundaries and people you shouldn’t trust etc, not that kind of midsummer madness; but where it is ok, yes, the midsummer fool can teach me to dance more freely, to let go some more, to have the sensible hand open, and the not so sensible hand near my heart, having let go of hurts.
On to the greater body of Summer.